Updated: Dec 11, 2019
Nobody wants to be a “quitter.”
Wrong. History is replete with really “cool” quitters!
Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Florence Nightingale and many other successful people have “quit” something out of conviction: more specifically, it was their conviction that their passions and skills were better aligned by distancing themselves from an injustice or alternately leaning into a greater cause.
Knowing when to quit takes a unique blend of courage, vulnerability, intuition and tact — but it’s worth the investment. Walking away from something - anything that no longer aligns with your convictions deserves a Breakfast Club fist pump that would make Judd Nelson proud!
As a society, we’ve turned quitting into a curse word with phrases like ‘quitting is for losers', in fact, quitting can be the positive process of choosing the path that more fully serves your highest good. Don't get caught up in the lie of "I can't end that course of action because then I'll be a quitter. Instead, you should ask yourself, “Does this course of action serve what's truly best for my well being?" When it does, give no apologies for following that path.
How often do we bow to society’s traditional quips? We do it so often that we stop actively thinking.We aren't investigating our thinking enough. For example, it may be fine to eat chocolate if we make the decision to do so knowing it contains stacks of sugar and is high in kilojoules, but for a person looking to lower their body fat percentage, thinking through the decision could lead to the choice that eating chocolate more than once a week is unwise. Must a person quit chocolate? Maybe. Or maybe there’s a suitable substitution or a smaller portion or lower frequency that would better support a higher purpose.
I have quit many things through my life. I have quit jobs I have hated. I have quit people whom I no longer like. I have quit brilliant and bad ideas. I have tried to quit chocolate, but just cannot!
At its heart, quitting something is a counter-intuitive idea
that is vital to the pursuit of excellence. Many talented and highly competent individuals find themselves trapped on a plateau of mediocrity because they can’t decide what not to do. However, doing more is not the same as doing better. The pursuit of excellence requires some projects be swallowed by flames. Some opportunities need to go up in smoke. Some options need to be rejected. Sometimes, nature will start the fire for you, but most times you must strike the match with a conscious decision.
The power of quitting outperforms scattered productivity. Quitters win because they pursue excellence with decisive focus, not scattered productivity. In the real world, the pursuit of excellence does not happen with a single epiphany or annual holiday. It is not a quarterly event or even a monthly meeting. Every organisation, every group, and every person must pursue excellence one decision at a time, multiple times every day. Quitting is not for everyone. A word of advice from Osayi Osar-Emokpae, Author of Impossible is Stupid:
“Quitting is not giving up, it's choosing to focus your attention on something more important. Quitting is not losing confidence, it's realizing that there are more valuable ways you can spend your time. Quitting is not making excuses, it's learning to be more productive, efficient and effective instead. Quitting is letting go of things (or people) that are sucking the life out of you so you can do more things that will bring you strength.”
Of course, quitting must never be reactive, but rather proactive; it must be considered. It must be a conscious choice. And, once you quit you may notice how things begin to change. Knowing your purpose is the fastest path to living a life driven by conviction. Your conviction may be for a greater cause, or it may be a stand for an injustice or it may simply be driven by a conviction that a chocolate every day serves no good and loses its indulgent appeal. Whatever the source, follow your convictions.
It is well-documented that many people feel stuck in situations that they dislike. Life is too short. Only you know what you truly love, and only you know what you truly hate. Quit following the crowd and start making your own path. No matter why you quit and no matter when you quit, people around you — and even some close to you — will think you are crazy. You may be graceful in how you quit though quitting is rarely a graceful process! Purpose will give you conviction and conviction will give you the courage to buck the herd and set off on the path that inspires you.
Award Ceremony Speech - March 2017: Why quitting changes your thinking.
Founder and Director of Studies - Sagan Academy
Educator since 1992